UK & Ireland

Our bucket list: 8 of the most beautiful places in England

From dramatic coastlines with azure waters to postcard-perfect streets of charming limestone cottages, these places are beyond beautiful

Whatever your idea of beauty, England has so many locations that will capture your heart. With undulating hills, craggy mountains and seemingly endless beaches sitting side-by-side with winding village streets, quaint market towns and modern built-up cities, England has a wonderful mix of natural beauty and manmade treasures.

We’ve picked out eight of the most beautiful places in England for you to explore, from walking routes along lake-filled valleys carved by glaciers to culturally rich seaside resorts that stun with both their artworks and their blue waters. As well as things to see and do, we’ve included accommodation recommendations to suit each location.

Observe geology of Jurassic proportions in Purbeck, Dorset

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The south Dorset peninsula of Purbeck is the place to go for unbelievable geological beauty. It is in the easterly section of the Jurassic Coast, one of England’s most spectacular natural beauties. Inland, there are thriving green spaces with wildflowers in abundance, enchanting woodlands and market towns. Arguably, though, the must-see parts of the region are three terrific rock formations on the coast path.

The first, west to east, is Durdle Door. It’s a natural limestone arch that stands proudly in the sea, attached to a many-humped chalk cliff. You can access it by taking the steep path from the Durdle Door car park, descending the steps to the beach. The best view is from the signposted cliff-top walking route. Take this route to walk along the coast to the second stunning formation: Lulworth Cove. From above, this pebble beach has a perfectly rounded shape, almost a complete circle. It has tranquil blue waters that, when receding at low tide, fill rock pools with sea creatures.

A short drive from here is the third landmark: three chalk formations known as Old Harry Rocks at Studland Bay. They are surprisingly captivating, sticking out of the water, bright white and heavy-looking. Between these three locations, keep an eye out for remnants of the Jurassic past; fossils are often found on the beaches and coast paths in the area.

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Find glistening pools of water set against the Lake District hills

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The beauty of Keswick in the Lake District makes you glad that England gets so much rain. If it weren’t for the wet weather, there wouldn’t be such vast lakes and waterways set against the epic backdrop of craggy mountains and lush green hills. Keswick and the surrounding area offer a balance of rural serenity and modern convenience, with lots of shops and pubs for when you’re not exploring.

A 3.5 mile walk along the route from Keswick to Watendlath leads you to the aptly named Surprise View, a breathtaking viewpoint on top of a cliff. Formed by a glacier in Borrowdale during the Ice Age, the valley is largely filled by lakes Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite, backed by dramatic mountains. In the summer you can see for miles, while in winter a fantastic layer of foggy clouds creates atmosphere.

Back on level ground, head to Friar’s Crag next to Derwentwater lake–another spot for capturing the vistas over some of the region’s huge bodies of water. From here, you can walk down and around the lake (there’s a footpath most of the way) or go wild-swimming near the fairytale-like Derwent Island, the only inhabited island on the water.

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Explore upmarket British seaside charm in Whitby

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The town of Whitby has captured hearts and imaginations for centuries. Split in two by the River Esk, its quaint streets are winding, cobbled and bordered by boutiques. The western half has the glorious Whitby Beach, the eastern half has Whitby Abbey and through the middle is the fascinating working harbour.

Epic views await if you walk up 199 steps to Whitby Abbey, a domineering structure that overlooks the town. The Gothic ruins have inspired artists and writers for centuries, most notably Bram Stoker, the author of “Dracula.” Take advantage of the viewpoint from the garden of the neighbouring YHA Abbey Hostel, as well as the view of Whitby’s rooftops from St. Mary’s Church on your way down.

Once you’ve explored Whitby, set out on the Cleveland Way–a picturesque national trail that runs along the majority of the Yorkshire coast. Go south to Robin Hood’s Bay or north to Staithes. Both are charming villages wrapped in natural beauty.

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Get amazed at the Farne Islands, a haven for wildlife and wanderers

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One of England’s best kept secrets is the Farne Islands, a very special place off the Northumberland: coast. It is made up of around 20 islands, but some of them disappear over the course of the day when the tide levels rise. No one lives there, except for an amazing array of flora and fauna and a few National Trust rangers.

Book onto one of the boat tours to the islands from Seahouses Harbour between March and October (visitor numbers are limited in order to preserve the natural beauty of the islands, so this is the only way to access them). A day-long tour will take you around some of the most beautiful parts of the island group, highlighting the incredible wildlife you can see.

Watch for some of the many thousands of grey seals frolicking in the water and on the barely-trodden land, their hundreds of fluffy white pups born each autumn and the 40,000 breeding pairs of puffins above. Dolphins, red squirrels and deer also pay a visit to the islands, making them even more of a visual feast.

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Get enchanted by miles of unspoilt coastal landscapes in South Devon

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Covering 60 miles of coastline stretching from Torbay to Plymouth, South Devon AONB is certified one of the most naturally beautiful places in England. Secret sea coves tucked under rough-edged cliffs, beaches as far as you can see, estuaries teeming with wildlife, flowering hedgerows lining undulating lanes, patchworks of fields ripe with produce–these are just the typical everyday scenes of this relatively small part of the country.

The South Hams coastline is rugged and varied. For some brilliant scenery, navigate your way from the iconic Start Point lighthouse to Slapton Sands’ shingle beach, via Slapton Ley nature reserve and the eerie lost village of Hallsands. Afterwards, travel on to Dittisham, a yachting village on the estuary of the River Dart. Admire the handiwork of the thatched roof cottages, take one of the walking trails with estuary views, try your hand at crabbing near the pontoon or kick back in the traditional pub.

Further south, you’ll find Hope Cove, another small village worth a wander. It has two beaches next door to each other–Harbour Beach and Mouthwell Sands–both of which have nice colour combinations from the moody grey rock pools, turquoise water and ochre sand. The best view is from Bolt Tail, a headland that juts out from the main village area. From the tip, look back to see the beaches in tandem or across the way to Bantham Beach and Burgh Island. On a really clear day, you can just about see Cornwall, too.

Stroll by a gorgeous ancient city made for relaxation

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The ancient city of Bath has been drawing in onlookers since the Roman times. It has a melting pot of Georgian, Neoclassical Palladian and Roman architecture, evident in the honey-coloured buildings on and around Pulteney Bridge and the grandiose, sweeping Royal Crescent. It is so beautiful that Bath is classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

For an insight into the origins of the city’s beauty, head to the Roman Baths and Temple, which have been standing since 75 BC. The central rectangular pool, poised on one of the three hot springs in the city, was once a site for relaxing and socialising. Surrounded by ornate pillars, the greeny-blue bath is still a sight to behold today.

To feel the warmth and relaxation for yourself, book in at the Thermae Bath Spa. Fed by the mineral-rich waters of the only natural thermal hot springs in Britain, its saunas, steam rooms, pools and treatments leave you feeling wonderful. Make sure to go to the top of the building, where there’s a rooftop spa pool offering beautiful views across the city.

Discover the beauty of the quintessential English countryside

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Spanning parts of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, the Cotswolds is the largest area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England. The towns and villages of the Cotswolds could easily serve enough beautiful scenes to decorate thousands of chocolate boxes. Hills roll up and down, interspersed by wide vistas, trickling rivers and charming cottages.

In the northeasterly half, you’ll find Bourton-on-the-Water. This Gloucestershire village is nicknamed “The Venice of the Cotswolds” after its famous low footbridges that cross shallow points of the River Windrush. Nearby Chipping Campden is an incredibly smart town, where the curved central shopping street is lined with limestone terraced buildings. At the opposite end, Castle Combe in Wiltshire continues the theme with adorable honey-toned cottages, stone bridges and fluffy green trees. Wherever you land, you’ll bathe in the luxury of the fine English countryside.

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Find not only beautiful beaches, but also culture and Cornish pasties

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On the south west of England lies Cornwall, one of the most popular staycation destinations in Britain. Despite its popularity as a county, it has a slow, relaxed pace that revolves largely around the tides. St. Ives stands apart from fellow Cornish towns, because it is where surfers and walkers stroll side by side with culture lovers, families and fans of high-end independent shopping.

No visit to St. Ives can be made without a walk along its vast harbour and beaches. Surrounded by kiosks, little cafes and pubs, the sparkling blue waters host colourful, bobbing boats and mischievous seagulls that sometimes steal people’s chips. When the water retreats, golden sands are revealed for hours, so kick off your shoes and enjoy.

If you like art, you’re spoilt for choice in St Ives. Overlooking Porthmeor Beach, Tate. St Ives has touring modern art exhibitions, many of which include the works of artists that have a link to the area. The Tate also owns the Barbara Hepworth Museum, a hidden gem that celebrates the life and works of one of Britain’s finest modern artists in her very own sculpture garden and former home.

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